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Investigation closed, but questions remain in crash that killed retired Navy admiral

TAMPA — After more than two months of investigating, police do not know whether retired Navy Rear Adm. LeRoy Collins Jr. was in a crosswalk or in the road when fatally hit by a car.

As a result, the 26-year-old doctor from Tampa General Hospital who hit Collins with her beige Infiniti sport utility vehicle has not been cited.

Police released details Thursday of the investigation, which found that the protective shell of Collins' helmet had been removed prior to the crash, leaving him with only the foam liner. He wore a reflective vest and a flashing LED light on a lanyard around his neck, but there were no street-legal lights on his bike.

The crash happened about 6 a.m. July 29 at Brorein Street and Hyde Park Avenue.

Bicyclist Collins was riding north on Hyde Park toward the University of Tampa, where he often rowed in the mornings, according to the police report.

SUV driver Margaux Manuel told investigators she was turning south on her way to work at the hospital on Davis Islands when she stopped at a red light at that intersection.

Manuel said she looked down both one-way streets before making a legal left turn, according to the police report. She said she didn't see Collins — pedaling toward her — until she hit him at a nearly idle speed.

The driver stopped behind Manuel told police she hadn't seen Collins either.

It was still dark outside, and though the area is well lit, police say there's a tree at the southeast corner of the intersection with branches low enough to potentially obstruct a northbound bicyclist.

After the crash, Manuel jumped out of her car and began CPR on Collins, who at the time was on the ground and moaning, according to witnesses. A couple of TGH nurses and a security guard ran over to help before an ambulance took Collins over the bridge to the hospital.

He was identified by a dog tag on his key chain.

A medical examiner determined that Collins died of a broken neck. There were no visible injuries on his body other than scrapes and bruises.

Police and the State Attorney's Office did not deem criminal charges appropriate for Manuel. A traffic citation would be issued only if Collins was riding in the crosswalk.

If he was in the road, Collins would have been illegally traveling against traffic, going north on the one-way southbound street. But if he were on the sidewalk entering the cross walk, the driver should have yielded.

Investigators don't know.

Diocelis Rosabal, the TGH security guard who mans a parking lot post at Hyde Park and Brorein, told police he recognized Collins as a bicyclist who rode past that intersection often.

Rosabal said he sometimes saw the cyclist in the sidewalk, but he had also frequently seen him in the road.

Physical evidence at the scene did not offer clues, and no witnesses who saw the impact have come forward, the report states.

A surveillance camera outside the Walgreens at Hyde Park Avenue captured a bicyclist going north on the sidewalk of that street at 5:58 a.m., but the image is too brief and far away to determine whether the bicyclist is Collins, the report states.

"We may never know the answer," said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

That's not good enough for Collins' son, Ed Collins, a local insurance adviser. Collins said he was upset that Manuel didn't at least get a traffic ticket.

"The standard of enforcement shown toward cyclists is apparently lower than that given to drivers," Collins said.

A cyclist himself, Collins said he knew three of the eight bicyclists who have died in recent crashes in the Tampa Bay area.

"It's like being in a war zone," Collins said, "every day wondering which of your friends is going to die next."

Anyone who may have information about the crash can call police at (813) 231-6130.

CORRECTION: This story was changed to reflect the following correction: Nicholas Sclavakis is a Tampa Police detective who investigated the bicycle fatality of LeRoy Collins Jr. Diocelis Rosabal is a Tampa General Security guard. A story Thursday misidentified the men's occupations.

Investigation closed, but questions remain in crash that killed retired Navy admiral 10/14/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 15, 2010 1:50pm]
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